In 1992, I heard fat was bad, count your fat grams and you can eat as many carbs as you want. In 2013, I heard carbs are bad, eat fat and protein. In 2017, I heard don’t eat at all, just fast for 16 hours a day. In our culture we have to deal with the dual fears of obesity and eating disorders. We want to prevent each of them without inadvertently encouraging the other. The development of eating disorders is a complicated process that usually involves multiple factors. Parents are not to blame for eating disorders. However, parents can play a very important role in the early recognition of an eating disorder and in encouraging recovery. Parents can help in averting an eating disorder when they catch the signs early. Several studies have demonstrated that adolescents who diet are at greater risk of becoming overweight and binge eating. On the flip side, they’re also at greater risk of developing overly restrictive eating patterns including using things like laxatives or diet pills. Focus on healthy eating that nourishes the body. We can do this by providing healthy snacks like fruits vegetables, whole grain snacks to our kids. Weight talk and weight teasing are also associated with both obesity and eating disorders. Even though parents are often well-intentioned comments about our own weight or our kid’s weight has been linked to binging and purging as well as restrictive eating. If the focus of the conversation is only on healthy eating behaviors then the effects are actually protective against developing unhealthy weight restriction methods. The prevalence of weight-related teasing and bullying among peers has actually not decreased. Keep an eye out for this with your child so that you can intervene if needed. Don’t allow hurtful nicknames or jokes based on a person’s physical characteristics and don’t make comments yourself about someone’s weight or body shape. Encourage your teen’s genuine self-esteem based on the things that they do, their artistic abilities, their athletic abilities, their social endeavors rather than on their physical appearance or how thin they are. Let your teen hear you complimenting people based on what they say feel or do rather than on what they look like or how thin they are. How can we promote a healthy body image? As with most things in parenting, modeling appropriate behaviors and attitudes is really important We can help with questioning that Western cultural ideal of thinness that many of us have internalized. We can help reassure our kids that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and we can teach them to be skeptical about the media images that portray the idea that thin is best. Last, family meals are big because family meals have been shown to be protective in several areas. Family meals are actually protective against dieting as well as binging and purging. To sum it up, No to dieting and diet culture. Yes to family meals. No to blaming parents for eating disorders and Yes to reaching out for help if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits or behaviors or you think they might be developing an eating disorder. Your pediatrician is always a great place to start.